Allyn & Bacon Online Service
EXCERPTED from Getting the Most Out of College by Arthur W.
Chickering, George Mason University, and Nancy K. Schlossberg,
University of Maryland. Published by Allyn & Bacon, 1995.
MANAGING YOUR TIME: PRIORITIES AND PLANNING
There are so many interesting and enjoyable things out there that
most of us have difficulty saying no. So the most difficult part of
time management is setting priorities, making hard-nosed, realistic
decisions about how much time you are going to allocate to all these
possibilities during what parts of the day or week. Your priorities
will rest on three things: your basic obligations, responsibilities,
and commitments; your values; and your interests or things you do
for relaxation and enjoyment.
Most of us have responsibilities and commitments to meet while
going to college. You may work full -or part time. You may have kids
to get to or from school, meals only you can prepare, shopping only
you can do. You may need to spend at least one weekend a month
with parents. You may be committed to church or community activities.
Your values lie behind many of these commitments, but they also
influence your priorities for using discretionary time. Every choice,
every act, every dollar you spend, is a value statement. Most adults
returning to college have experiences value conflicts in choosing
between studying, spending time with friends, partner or children,
and doing something for their own pleasure. Most residential students
experience value conflicts in choosing among time with friends,
getting heavily involved in extracurricular activities, and studying.
You also want to build in time for relaxation and recovery. All work
and no play burns out the best of us. You need time just to relax. You
need activities that drain off tension and vent frustration. You need
to have fun with others and enjoy those relationships.
If you are not already using a calendar or planner, there is a basic
strategy that works well for many persons for getting started and
translating priorities into behavior:
List all the things you have to do and want to do.
Besides each item put the amount of time you require or want to
give to it.
Give each item a score from one to five, with one standing for the
things most important to you, or the things you just have to do, and
five the least.
On a month-by-month calendar work your way down the list. First
block out the times required by certain recurring commitments, like
classes, a job, athletics, helping kids with homework, commuting. Then
put in the other activities at the times that seem to work best for you.
Begin with the ones and end with the fives.
Now enter all the deadlines you have for future products or
performances: the dates when exams will be given or when papers
are due, when some major task where you work needs to be
completed, when you have to have the house ready for a party or
for guests. Then put in the appropriate amounts of lead time so
these important items don't get shortchanged because they've crept
up on you.
A monthly time frame is useful because there are important things
you want to do that don't happen every week: going to visit parents
or having guests come to you; and special events like concerts,
conferences, parties, children's performances, athletic events, and
such. You need to keep this calendar on a rolling basis, writing in
future events or activities that are high priorities for you. Then you
can anticipate them and change your weekly schedule accordingly.
The present week and the week coming up will be the fullest and
most detailed. Future weeks will probably have some windows of time
here and there. It's a good idea protect those blank spaces as long as
possible to leave room for unexpected things you either want to do, or
absolutely must do.
If you are lucky, you may find all the time you need for your
commitments and other things you want to do. Most of us are not so
lucky. We have to either eliminate some activities or reduce the time
given to them. So you will probably need to take the next step.
Starting with your fives, reduce or eliminate the time given to them
until you have a schedule that, given the finite number of hours
available, best fits your priorities. Note: You may be able to
satisfy some fives by doing them only once or twice a month instead
of every week.
These steps require an analytical, linear, rational approach. However,
there is another way to identify your priorities and develop your
calendar for more intentional planning that may work better for you.
This approach helps if you already keep a calendar. It goes like this:
Create a detailed time log for the last week or two. The further back
you can go accurately, the better. Include every hour of the day, or
break it into half-hours. Record as precisely as you can how all those
hours were spent.
List each activity and rank it from 1 to 5 according to its importance
Add the amount of time spent on each activity.
Examine the fit between your priority rankings and the amount of
time you are investing, and identify those where there are big
Modify your schedule for the next week or two to minimize the
discrepancies and improve the fit between your considered
priorities and your actual behavior.
Whichever approach you use, it is critical to treat this calendar
as a living document. Which it is: It's your life. These are your
priorities, whether they are expressed simply through the way you
behave or expressed more consciously through explicit attention.
These priorities will undoubtedly change with experience, and as
new interests, friendships, activities, obligations arise. In fact, one
of the most useful things you can do is to examine your priorities
and schedule from time to time, perhaps at midterm, the end of the
semester, or when some serious or meaningful change presents itself.